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Bradford Grammar School graduates to DataCore for software-defined storage

Bradford Grammar School puts DataCore SANsymphony in front of DotHill storage arrays to create cost-efficient software-defined storage with synchronous replication

Bradford Grammar School has implemented DataCore storage software in front of DotHill arrays in a move that has seen it adopt an entirely software-defined storage environment to gain advanced functionality while cutting costs on expensive SAN hardware.

The deployment is the conclusion of a path that has seen it move from IBM storage hardware with Falconstor; and then Starwinds storage virtualisation products to DotHill arrays, completely managed by DataCore storage software.

The fee-paying school – with 1,100 students and 120 staff in West Yorkshire – uses an externally hosted virtual learning environment from Firefly, but has numerous internal administration and management systems, including email, that are deployed on VMware virtual machines.

Bradford Grammar School deployed Falconstor seven years ago to gain replication functionality between IBM and DotHill arrays at the Bradford site. But Falconstor eventually proved expensive, as the school had to pay increased licence fees as capacity grew, said network manager Simon Thompson.

“Falconstor was costly. We had to buy capacity licences and, because we were in a mirrored configuration, we had to buy double the licences and two trays of disks every time we expanded capacity. It was too much to keep upgrading so we looked elsewhere.”

From here the school moved to Starwind Virtual SAN software, which didn't charge according to storage capacity under its management. But after two years and a forced upgrade, it ran into problems that knocked out replication and made data for virtual machines inaccessible, said Thompson.

He said: “Starwind had an unlimited capacity licence, which was fine for a while. Then we were forced to upgrade to a new version, which resulted in a lot of issues that went on for a long time.”

Automated storage tiering

So, this year the school deployed DataCore SANsymphony version 10.1 on two Dell servers. These act as a software-defined storage front end, to two DotHill 3430 SANs with synchronous replication between them; and mirroring to a hosted disaster recovery site in the centre of Bradford.

Thompson said: “DataCore is doing clever stuff that DotHill can't do, or stuff that they can do but doing it in a better way. We can replicate data off-site in real time, which we couldn't do previously. We needed to replicate everything every 12 hours.

The use of automated storage tiering functionality in DataCore has seen the school deploy flash storage in the DotHill arrays. DataCore moves frequently used data to flash so it can be accessed rapidly.

Thompson said: “The benefits are that it works. It replicates, it mirrors and the contrast in performance is like night and day compared to before.”

Bradford Grammar School backs up data using Veeam in the almost entirely virtualised environment. Tape has been abandoned with all the oldest backup copies going to disk on a re-purposed DotHill array kept in a separate building.

Read more about software-defined storage

This guide gives you the lowdown on software-defined storage: What is it, what it isn’t, what it can do for you, and how suppliers’ implementations differ.

Software-defined storage has promise, but hypervisor and software-defined storage vendors are making some of the same mistakes as their storage ancestors. 

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